The Critique of Pure Modernity: Hegel, Heidegger, and After

Kolb, David.  The Critique of Pure Modernity: Hegel, Heidegger, and After, Chicago, 1978.


One common understanding of progress and development urges the creation or liberation of something like a pure personal individuality and a pure human society. At the same time we also feel it is important to have roots that can give us more than modern distance seems able to provide. Throughout the world there are reassertions of tradition and reactions against modernization. Of course there are groups, such as the Amish, that always resisted assuming the modern identity. There also groups that maintain a traditional identity as a salable product for tourism. But recently we have seen aggressive groups that deny the universalistic modern identity. I’m not thinking just of such strongly anti modern movements as those in the Islamic world. More puzzling perhaps are the ethnic movements such as those among the Welsh, the Basques, the Scots, the Bretons, and other regional groupings in Europe. Even in America the melting pot image has gone out of favor, and the age of the hyphenated-American has arrived. The world seems full of groups that want to define their own life and language, but not on the model of the voluntary club. If the Basques were to set up a semi independent region, one would not be able to join it as one might join a tennis club or move to a more swinging suburb. Not all ethnic or minority identities have been successfully turned into commodities.

The upsurge of such movements is a puzzle for modern consciousness. Is there a flight from modern society back to tradition? Or is it a predictable extension of the modern right to choose, now turned against the large nation state? Or is it something our standard categories do not well describe?

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